Something Missing

Paul Reynolds has an article about terrorism experts ‘floundering about’ in an attempt to understand suicide bombers.

He seems to think they are missing something:

‘I felt that the conference rather ignored some of the political influences on suicide bombers, like the world events -Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, Chechnya, Bosnia and others – that provide a basic motivation for many of them.’

Well I am quite prepared to accept that they are floundering, and missing something- the question is, what? Since, for instance, the West’s assistance for Muslims in Kosovo and Indonesia after the tsunami seemed to cause no softening of the “militant” rhetoric I would be inclined to agree with Peter C. Glover:

‘It is amazing how even the most intelligent and understanding among us sometimes refuse to countenance the plainest of answers when it comes to issues of faith. The root cause here is Islam’s teachings. As I have shown repeatedly on these pages Mohammed taught and the Koran and the Traditions teach openly that murder, violence is a perfectly Allah-given path to subjugating all other peoples, cultures and faiths. Moderate Muslims may well deny it by their overlooking of the innumerable passages that teach these things – something we should be thankful for (and encourage)…But it doesn’t change the reality. The ‘radicals’ not the ‘moderates’ are the ones living out true Islam. Until we grasp this key fact and understanding – as hard as President Bush and others find it – we are never really going to ‘get it’ entirely.’

Certainly political events have their impact, but the interpretation of them is the key, and that interpretation is provided by the extreme suspicion, negativity and contempt which can be drawn with a far amount of ease from the pages of the Koran.

In related matters, Ian Dale notes the BBC drawing back from calling terrorists terrorists, again.

I should add, I think, that over the course of time I’ve grown to like Paul Reynolds and his well-meaning work- aided no doubt by the personal encounters enabled by blogging and his own rather generous-spirited approach to us. Therefore I tend to see this kind of analytical weakness as a symptom of BBC malaise rather than a cause of it, in distinction to other BBC men.

Our own Laban Tall, meanwhile, notices another whitewashing of religion. I dare say he may post about it here sometime, but here is a link to the post, painfully funnily titled ‘Mr Clarke – Over Here !’. And here is a taste:

“Abdul El-Gharras, 31, was obsessed with decapitation and had downloaded videos of al Qaeda beheadings before murdering Marvin Gentles last June in an argument over crack cocaine, the Old Bailey criminal court heard.”


Presumably a foreign national then – and with an unhealthy interest in the more robust manifestations of the Religion of Peace. Can’t understand why the BBC should have missed that’

BBC article here.

And on the Home Front

, Guido Fawkes has a bombshell to give to Nick Robinson:

‘Nick Robinson blogs that Prescott’s mistress was “a bombshell” to his family and colleagues. Bullshit Nick. It was hardly a bombshell to the lobby or his colleagues. Trevor Kavanagh admits he knew of Prezza’s serial adultery, half the less connected Westminster village from the lowliest research assistant and up knew.

If the political editor of the BBC finds this a bombshell he is either being disingenuous or is in the wrong job.


Update 29/04: Bombshell defused. Not convincingly though.

Needs reported

Sorry, that should be ‘needs reporting’, but with the BBC’s reporting recently I seem to be experiencing tense confusion. The BBC report, most strangely, ‘US economy kept growing, Fed says’ in this report, and in the headline leading to it.

Now, this is weird, because journalistic practise is generally to use the present continuous when some event is up to the present: US economy ‘keeps growing’, or maybe present simple ‘growth continues’. They could use present perfect or present perfect continuous, ‘has grown’, ‘has been growing’, but the past continuous is a definite no-no. Yet they use it, twice. Why?

Well, when you read the account it’s hedged about with qualifications and scepticism- they have sought out, quite unusually it seems to me, numerous banks’ reports to scale down the positive data. In fact, as Bloomberg reports, in what amounts to a complete inversion of the BBC report (positive data up front),

‘The world’s biggest economy probably expanded at a 4.9 percent pace in the first quarter, the fastest since the third quarter of 2003’

Well, why the BBC negativity? The US economy has performed well in difficult times, during time of war and terrorism, and is now, currently, as far as we can see, performing better.

Maybe the answer is in ideology. Take this hysterical (not to say silly) report from Matt Frei. Anyone who states his opinions so extremely must be forcing the editors who sanction him into a corner. That’s not to discount the fact that they probably agree with him, operating within the same bubble.

Here’s how Frei introduces his article:

‘Petrol is the new indispensable staple and the $3 gallon is to America what the over-priced potato once was to Ireland.

Americans are very sensitive to the cost of filling up
It is causing a torrent of suffering and heartache.

Bewailed in country songs and popular ballads, it is forcing ordinary people to do extraordinary things – like car pooling, riding the bike to work, selling their second SUV, or doing a “walk-thru” at their local burger joint instead of a “drive-thru”.’

Now check out what a very clever and attuned American, Glenn Reynolds, has to say, quoting from Forbes’ Nick Schultz:

‘the Associated Press reports that “surveys indicate drivers won’t be easing off on their mileage, using even more gas than a year ago.” Now why is that? If prices are rising, one would expect consumers would use less.

The answer might be in some of the long-term trends that the short-term media lens is too cramped to see. Energy prices may be rising, but energy itself is much less important to consumers and to the overall economy than it once was.’

It surely tallies better with the positive economic data, and with the fact that petrol prices have risen from a high base in recent times.

But the problem is that Frei has set out to put the boot in to the President, and he distorts his case to do so. See the way he drags in the tangentally related issue of Iraq and makes a horribly emotionalised point:

‘I’m sure the president is totally genuine about his desire to help America kick the oil habit.

It will extricate him from a part of the world that he has surely come to loathe.’

Back to the old old story again. With such extreme, and, one has to say, culpable subjectivity, it’s not surprising the news follows suit, now, is it?

Civil War in Gaza?

I only ask because the BBC have reported ‘clashes’ between rival Palestinian ‘students’. Obviously the Beeb had checked out their enrollment details, or perhaps one could say it’s obvious they were just undertaking a practical module. The fact that the BBC describe the violence thus:

‘throwing stones and homemade explosives and exchanging gunfire’

suggests that it couldn’t really have been a harder term for the poor undergrads.

They then say, of the two main terrorist organisations in the area:

‘they were ordering their followers to bring the tension to an end and that a committee would be formed to resolve any future problems.’

Why such mealy-mouthedness, Beebies? What’s with this ‘tension’ involving explosions and firefights? You were only too happy to host a debate about civil war in Iraq.

There are so many questions unanswered by this report it’s really hard to call it a news report. Here’s my sample:

1)What sense is there in calling the masked (presumably, if the picture alongside means anything) partakers of violence ‘students’. Was it just the locality of the violence? The picture attached, by the way, seems distinctly unhelpful in supporting the sense of describing them as ‘students’.

2) What kind of ‘hurt’ was suffered by the victims of this violence involving bullets and explosives? Did they all just shoot to miss? This point relates to my general body count scepticism, since reports of deaths strongly influence the news agenda.

3)How can the Beeb call violence involving guns and bombs ‘tension’? Is there simply ‘tension’ in Iraq then? Can it be reasonable to view a gun battle as revealing how ‘suspicious’ one side is of another? Alan Johnston also describes the potential for future similar ‘friction’.

4)I notice at the end of the article that it is reported that 15 had been wounded. My point about the nature of their injuries, and whether any- or who knows, many?- of them led to fatalities, still stands, but I read at the beginning of the article about how ‘several people have been hurt’. I do not consider the two statements to be compatible, and the intro is therefore misleading and wrong.

5) Just what is a ‘shadow security force’?

It seems to me the BBC are in a twist over their reporting of the situation among the Palestinians. The fact is that civil war and ongoing violence would be a much more effective description of the Palestinian situation than it would of Iraq. The BBC have got their descriptors mixed up (deliberately and accidentally, I would say, in some ratio or other), and the result is reporting stasis where their journalism means almost nothing.

Off Topic Comments

We have this every few months. Last time, I remember, the debate in the comments was about whether Islam was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. This time it’s the BNP.

Email :“The threads at BBBC seem to be being hijacked by a few people interested in slipstreaming their support for the BNP under cover of discussing BBC bias. For example, the current thread has one correspondent who has popped up two or three times recently with links to the BNP site over various issues – Nick Griffin talking about this and that, some BNP list of Conservative and Labour MPs who’ve been convicted of crimes, etc etc.

It’s beginning to feel like BBBC has become a covert portal for introducing the BNP and its policies to BBBCs moderate, but disgruntled right-wingers. The last third or so of the current thread, illustrates what I mean. It makes me, for one, feel very uncomfortable. I do not wish to limit anyone’s free speech, but if I want to read a defence of the BNP I think I should have to go to dedicated sites to do it! And frankly, I can’t see how being associated with the BNP in any way can be of any possible benefit to BBBC.”

Reply : “I took a look today. Ed, Natalie (and I, when I’m posting – I tend to do it in bursts) have pointed out to the commentariat before that the blog is a place to discuss BBC bias, not (for example) whether Islam is a Good or a Bad Thing.

There are other blogs for that.

Our problem is that if we moderate comments

a) it takes up a lot of somebody’s time – which they may not have spare

b) it takes some of the spontaneity out – and the commenters are the life-blood of BBBC, as they spot lots of things that we don’t.

On the other hand, if we do nowt

a) the BBC and its media allies (Guardianistas etc) can say – it’s a site for racists and anti-Islamic bigots – which absolves them of the need to address the actual issues

b) sympathetic people who are neither will be put off reading or contributing by the tone of the debates”

So if you want to debate the BNP, there are places on the Web where you can do just that – type “BNP blog” into Google and go from there.

Debate is a good thing. But this blog debates BBC bias – that alone, that above all, that all the time. Please respect that.

You Have To Admire The Today Programme …

The President of China is visiting the US – and the Today Programme’s first item after the eight o’clock news decides to focus on China’s attitude to human rights (RealAudio), which “is not exactly compatible with Western standards”.

Would the BBC care to give us an example ?

“One huge cause for concern is China’s fondness for the death penalty …”

So let’s ask Ken Livingstone’s ex, Kate Allen of Amnesty International, to give a little talk on how China is ‘by far the worst offender’.

Now there’s a case for a close look at China’s USE of the death penalty – it is applied for cases of ‘economic sabotage’ for example. But Kate Allen’s position is that ALL executions are a violation of human rights, and in her interview she makes it plain that it is the fact of the death penalty, not the reasons for its use, that concerns her .

Her views are shared by only a minority of the UK and US populations, though by probably a majority of Today presenters. Among who exactly is the fact of the death penalty a cause for ‘huge concern’ ?

The death penalty has been compatible with western standards for most of the twentieth century, and is still used in the greatest Western nation. How strange that, of all the criticisms that could be levelled – lack of democracy, no freedom of expression, no freedom of religion, for example – that the BBC should choose this as an example of what’s wrong with China.

The Mysterious Disappearing Far-Left

It’s Easter time, when the BBC gear up to cover the annual ritual that means so much to so many of the faithful – the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers.

This year, those teachers who want a national strike against Government education policy are being described on Radio Four as ‘committed activists’. Way back in December 2001, when I searched the BBC News website for occurrences of the phrase ‘far-left’ and ‘far-right’, the NUT, with its ‘various far-left groups’ was one of only five mentions of a British far-left.

The other four were in a Scritti Politti review, a story about Peter Hitchens having been a youthful far-leftist (how come we never hear that about Andrew Marr – or indeed any of the vast number of other BBC journalists to which it would apply ?), a story that the Animal Liberation Front had both far-left and far-right members, and a Peter Tatchell profile.

There were 32 stories about the British ‘far-right’ – of which no less than 11 involved the Tory party.

The overall figures were – ‘far-left’ 46 stories, ‘far-right’ 338. I repeated the search in August 2002 – 66 far-left, 502 far-right.

And one minute ago – Fascinatingly 97 far-left, 420 far-right. Is this an indication that the BBC is now reporting at a 1/4 ratio rather than 1/8, or does the BBC’s search engine needs its indexing looking at ? Fortunately I kept all the 502 search results, but further analysis will have to wait till I have more time.

Not needed – try the ‘advanced search’ option and drop down the date listboxes, while leaving the range at 1997-2006. You still get 97 far-left stories, while the far-right feature in a staggering 1,550. Looks like the ratio is 1/15. Anyone using BBC search is advised to use the advanced option.

If, like most human attributes, political views were subject to a normal distribution about a mean, you might expect far-left and far-right views to have a pretty equal distribution. Unless, of course, there’s bias in the measurement. The kind of bias, say, that doesn’t consider the Socialist Workers Party, who support the Iraqi ‘resistance’ while simultaneously controlling the ‘anti-war’ movement, to be far-left. After all, half their college friends were in it.

A Few Questions for the Beeb

Concerning the recent terrorist murders in Israel, Adloyada asks

‘Now why would the BBC report it that way?’

While DFH asks why it is that the Iranian president’s comments about Israel are being buried by the BBC, among other Iran related matters.

Meanwhile, I ask why on earth it is that the Beeb have put themselves at the forefront of the charge against Rumsfeld. Again and again the same dreary story designed to push Bush into a corner, which is where the BBC like to see him. Notice how it’s regularly ‘Bush’ who defends one of his own, whereas a wide range of attackers is entertained and the Beeb basically ignore the many who weigh in on the President’s side.

If like me you find this politicking very wearying, you may well enjoy this parody site.

Oh, and another question for the Beeb concerning the prominence given to some Greenpeace Chernobyl activism is asked here.

Today Programme Miss Amazing Story

The Today programme like to think that they don’t just report the news, that they “help to set the agenda” – and to a great extent they’re correct. You can hear Humphrys or Naughtie worrying away at a point like a terrier with a rat. hoping to get an admission which will make the NEXT news headlines.

“In an interview on the BBC Today programme, the Minister revealed that …”

But there are scoops and scoops. The BBC has an institutional bias towards a pro-abortion viewpoint – I’m sorry, the approved BBC term is ‘pro-choice’, and against the pro-life viewpoint – I’m sorry, that should have read ‘anti-abortion’.

Which might explain why this remarkable interview (RealAudio, 25 minutes in) with ‘pro-choice’ Dr Stuart Derbyshire wasn’t the main headline at nine-o’clock, and would just have been quietly forgotten before the Web.

Dr Derbyshire argued that babies did not feel pain until they were up to several months old, an argument which seems to fly in the face of common sense and human experience, as John Humphrys acknowledged. Such a bizarre claim made by a proponent of an unpopular (to liberals) ideology would have been picked up and amplified by the BBC, used to discredit their cause. The two sides of bias are promoting that which supports a view and ignoring or suppressing that which discredits it.

I can imagine how a pro-life BBC would have spun it.

A pro-abortion doctor today claimed that babies cannot feel pain until up to several months after birth. Controversial psychologist Dr Stuart Derbyshire – who has previously claimed that vivisectionists have no duty to care for laboratory animals beyond what is necessary for successful experimentation, said that …”

Here’s the transcript (note Humphrys’ self-correction of ‘baby’ to ‘foetus’, so characteristic of the BBC):

John Humphrys : “Right – so your contention is that the baby – er, the foetus, cannot feel pain until … ?”

Dr Stuart Derbyshire, psychologist : “Until it’s had an opportunity to undergo some sort of learning process – until it’s had an opportunity to undergo a process whereby pointing and showing occurs”

Humphrys (interrupting) – “But that would suggest it’s weeks – possibly months – after birth – and surely that’s nonsense, isn’t it ?”

Derbyshire : “It possibly is weeks, possibly months – I mean it’s very difficult of course to ever draw a line as to precisely when it happens – but I do think we can draw a line and say that it is vitally dependent upon a process that’s going to take place outside of the womb. Pain – in the same way – all experience is in a sense social – it’s dependent on other people, and that doesn’t occur until the point of birth.”

Humphrys : “Dr Derbyshire, many thanks”

Dr Derbyshire was propounding an identical theory in the magazine Living Marxism ten years ago. Why is the BBC suddenly publicising him ?

“The US is considering legislation to make doctors tell women seeking an abortion it will cause the foetus pain.”

Ah, the Great Satan. Now I understand. Happy Easter.

The Leftist Spin

I was interested to find people in the comments compiling lists of ‘BBC issues’.

I think the following is a nice example of the BBC’s sly slanty issued-based bias.

This article might seem fairly innocuous, business as usual for Caroline Wyatt reporting French affairs.

It’s got a fashionable feminist slant, after all, questioning patriarchal values blah blah. Typical BBC really. But notice that the photo appears to have little to do with the article. Who is she? She’s not even mentioned in the main text, this ‘Segolene Royal’ (nice name, baby, btw).

To find out you have to click here, but before you do take note of the final line of the aforementioned Wyatt article ‘Perhaps, then, this issue will have to wait until France has a Madame le President?’

Then, in the other article, we have,

‘on the left, MP Segolene Royal, the Socialist in stilettos, a regional leader who is hotly tipped as France’s first real potential Madame la Presidente, overtaking her piqued male colleagues from nowhere.

The idea of a Sarko-Sego battle has gripped the nation’s imagination, with Madame Royal now the cover-woman of the moment, her elegant features smiling from the front pages of four of the country’s leading news magazines this week.

Her features have for once displaced those of Mr Sarkozy from the news magazines’ glossy covers, though no doubt he is planning a rapid return next week.’


So that’s what we needed to know about ‘French politician Segolene Royal [who] is seen as a role model by some’, as her glam portrait was identified in the caption to the feminist article. The connections are cleared up, where in the first article taken alone they are subliminal.

I also noticed a to me quite foolish-sounding word, ‘cover-woman’, where ‘cover-girl’ used to be accepted usage. It’s foolish because contradictory really; and it’s not even as if we have a notion of ‘cover man’. This went hand in hand with Sarkozy (the likely main rival all of a sudden) depicted as at the height of vanity. It’s not as if women are entirely singled out by language generally. There are ‘pretty boys’ and ‘pin-up boys’ and quite a lot besides- so no excuse really for C.W.

All in all, sly, deceitful, sexist, politicised, and well, quite biased. Nice work Ms Wyatt!